Academic journal article Journal of Markets & Morality

For a Catholic Vision of the Economy

Academic journal article Journal of Markets & Morality

For a Catholic Vision of the Economy

Article excerpt

"Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be yours as well" (Matt. 6:33). Therefore: "Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day's own troubles be sufficient for the day." These are the words of the Lord that should illuminate the Christian vision. These words, however, are not a maxim of piety. They are, rather, an ethical imperative for Christians and a law of human reality. When, instead, we look for mere economic good above all else, not only do we not obtain it, but often we can also lose the kingdom of God.

The reflections that I will propose in this article will attempt to bring out that fact. They will seek, that is to say, to demonstrate that the Gospel and the social doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, expressed so well by Saint Thomas Aquinas and by successive popes, contain those essential principles of human life and the achievement of its good, which no economy, if it wants to be a good economy, can forget.


Today the human world is living in a condition characterized by economic tension. Yet, the economy is not the ultimate end of man, as though it were some kind of god. In fact, the economy exists for man, of whom, in part, it is the creation, like, for example, money, which is based on metallic value and paper notes. The purpose of the economy, therefore, is to serve man: not, however, man as created by the extravagant imagination of a philosopher, but real and concrete man, who was created by God in His image. If this truth--which, in reality, is a question of common sense--is forgotten, we expose ourselves to the risk of inventing program after program that may be apparently wonderful but which, in reality, have negative consequences for actual men. This is what very often happens in the case of modern economic ideas, and many theories advanced by economists, which, on the surface, indeed, appear to be truly majestic constructions. However, what is their real value if, instead of serving human society as a whole, they instead sacrifice it to the advantage of a minority?

The Catholic Economy

It may be affirmed that a Catholic economy is an economy founded on the virtue that Saint Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle called liberality. This virtue teaches and governs the correct use of the goods of this world that have been given to us for our maintenance. (1) As Saint Augustine says: "It belongs to virtue to use well the things that we can use ill." (2) We can use well or ill not only the things that are within us, such as the powers and the passions of the soul but also external goods; that is, to say the goods of this world that are granted to us to maintain our lives. Given, in addition, that the goods outside us and everything that men possess on the earth, and over which they exercise a dominion, can be termed money, the virtue that governs the correct use of goods and the money that represents them is also called liberality.

Is it perhaps the case that artificial and natural wealth should be produced and accumulated without any purpose? Without doubt the answer to this question is no. They are things that are intended to serve man; they are for the use of man, and, let us employ the term, they are for consumption by man. It is clear that the question today is not only to offer man a quantity of sufficient goods but also to meet a demand for quality: the quality of the goods that are produced and consumed; the quality of the services that are used; and the quality of the environment and of life in general. These are goods and not merely things, according to whether they serve or can serve man. It is clear at this level of analysis that the purpose of the economy cannot amount solely to the accumulation of material goods.

Thus, the whole of the economic process, because of the requirements of the economy itself, has to be directed toward consumption: hence, the dual failing of a purely capitalist economy that consumes for production and produces for profit. …

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